Style or Substance
I am an addict. I find that I am addicted to the presidential campaign. Rather, I’m not so much addicted to the campaign itself, as I am to the style of the candidates. I get a rush each day when I read the latest tantalizing things that the candidates have said and done the day before. I enjoy watching them on social media, even though I know that I am seeing only biased footage based on which news network I am watching. And I tend to watch those networks that deliver the most sensational material. I’m addicted.
Style verses substance. Or, shall we say: style verses significance. Significance: the importance of something, and the value that an individual places on that something.
But style also contains substance. How a person presents himself or herself tells us something about the things that the person says are important (whether they believe it or not). For example, polls show that Secretary Clinton’s style and ideas appeal to a certain demographic group, those more likely to have a college education, good jobs, and prospects for a bright future in a global economy. But some find her style to be elitist, and her rhetoric to represent the faults of a government insider who does not understand the needs of ordinary Americans.
Polls tell us that Mr. Trump’s style and rhetoric gives voice to a different demographic group, those more likely to feel disenfranchised, with dead-end jobs or no jobs, and those struggling to keep their heads above water. But some find his style to be egotistic, bombastic, and insulting.
My problem is that I am addicted to the sensationalism of the style, and often fail to evaluate the significance of the matter that the person is giving voice to.
Many agree with Secretary Clinton’s belief that we must reduce our use of fossil fuels and increase our use of wind and solar energy. They would argue that global warming is a very real and present danger to our planet and our survival as a species, even more so than random acts of terrorism. They would agree with Mrs. Clinton’s proposals to train people in ways that will increase our use of wind and solar power.
Many of those who support Mr. Trump might agree with this belief. But their agreement does little to help the coal miner whose job was abolished, who is unable to put food on the table for his family. Being retrained for a job of the future may sound good in theory, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage today. Mr. Trump’s style and beliefs tend to appeal to those who feel powerless in this rapidly changing world, and who would like nothing better than to be the picked-on kid in the school yard who finally has the ability to turn and punch the bully in the nose. Mr. Trump identifies specifically who the bully is, and he is ready to punch him in the nose for us. His bully is not some nebulous set of global interactions that are hard to identify and hard to control, a bully that we must learn to work with.
Style and substance: not distinctly different things. But it’s often hard to see the one in the other. I need to work harder on breaking my addiction in order to do so, because IT IS IMPORTANT to see the significance of both sides of this coin.